Friday, July 20, 2012

Leverage Only Counts If You're Willing To Use It

The short answer to this post from Lawyers, Guns and Money is no... but it is worth reading:
Normally, legislators who actually care about improving things are at an inherent disadvantage when negotiating with conservatives or venal “centrists.” Joe Lieberman can get his “get rid of something because it will piss off liberals this week even if it’s what I favored last week” amendment passed because his vote is necessary and even with his dumb amendment the bill improves the status quo. But it doesn’t work the other way, because if you refuse his demand and the bill goes down he doesn’t give a shit. Leverage comes from negotiating with people who really want to make a deal, and this dynamic favors reactionaries and nihilists.

The expiring Bush tax cuts, however, are an exception to this rule. Here, it’s wingnuts who desperately need to make a deal, and progressives and moderates who should happily be willing to walk away. Fortunately, as Matt and Barbaraexplain, Senate Democrats seem finally to have figured this out. Look, this strategy here couldn’t be more obvious — let the Bush tax cuts expire, and pass your own “Democratic middle-class tax cut.” If House Republicans vote for it, the policy is better and the popular tax cuts are associated with you. If Republicans just let all of the tax cuts expire, fine — it’s not the optimal time for an across-the-board tax increases, but the revenue will be useful, there will be plenty of opportunities to cut middle-class taxes, and Republicans are responsible for a big tax increase. Unlike in 2010, you’re not going to get anything for extending the cuts and you’re not facing a presidential election in 2 years which would make an anti-stimulus worse for progressive interests. Indeed, the play here is so obvious that any Senate Democrat who won’t go along with it is more committed to upper-class tax cuts than not only good policy but the interests of their party. What makes me unsure about how this will play out is that such Senate Democrats may well exist.
The way to handle the expiration of the Bush tax cuts is so obvious it's absurd. Let them expire, then dare the Republicans to vote against the Obama/Kenyan/Marxist Tax cuts for low and middle income people you proposed in January 2013. This isn't complicated. You can make the Bush tax cuts for insanely rich people go away forever.

But then again the combination of stupidity (OMG what if the Republicans accuse us of RAISING taxes!?!?!?) and the fact that a good bit of the Democratic caucus doesn't actually want to repeal the Bush tax cuts for super rich people makes this whole thing far too predictable. The Democrats will see defections, then the stupid ones will panic to get the best deal that keeps the defectors on board, which will probably include cuts to medicare and social security along with extending the Bush tax cuts. What follows will be a relentless campaign like we saw post election in 2010 where top Democrats whip support for a crappy deal and Barack Obama says possibly the dumbest statement of his presidency (When someone takes a hostage, the only option is to give them absolutely everything they want)

Maybe I'll be totally wrong, and this time will be different, but I'm sure not getting my hopes up, regardless of how much leverage we have. Leverage only counts if you're willing to use it.

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